Had a great evening visit to Chobham Common with Sh4rpy, Paul and Ephraim for our annual Nightjars. The discussion of pessimism vs optimism was a hot topic for debate in the car journey there as the fact it was raining certainly decreased our chances of seeing or even hearing our target species. Optimism won and we arrived on site just as the rain eased up. It was only a short time after arriving (c.8:15) that we saw our first Woodcock working its way around its territory squeaking as it went. At least four or five more followed before the churring started.
Ephraim soon picked out our first Nightjar of the evening, perched in a silver birch, before we obtained better and better views of at least a further four birds as the night progressed, finishing on a grand finale with a male encircling us at close range! The night ended on another high with 2 Glowworms shining from the side of the path on our walk back to the car. Yet another enjoyable evening with thanks to Sh4rpy for the driving.
I've been keeping a close eye on my Herts patch recently, visiting the fields behind the KL School and Barnes Lane about three times a day (mostly thanks to dog walks). Red Kites have been even more evident than usual with a total of 7 circling over one single field and 3 landing on the KL School playing field on one visit alone. Pied Wagtails have had a rather successful year with fledglings littering the short grassy playing field. A juvenile Mistle Thrush on the same field also confirmed breeding and I located an active Green Woodpecker nest in Kings Langley Common Wood.
Green Woodpecker chick
Down at the canal I found a fledgling Grey Wagtail being attended closely by at least one parent bird and Moorhen chicks certainly aren't in short supply. The local Mute Swan pair now have 3 fast growing cygnets and the long-staying Cetti's Warbler is still bursting into song every 10-15mins at the canal section opposite the Kings Langley Fishery. I haven't seen any local Kingfishers in the past two visits so I assume they are breeding or have set up territory just outside patch limits, seems I'll have to venture a little further in future. Other highlights from the 26th June included a flyover Peregrine heading northwards along the canal towards Hemel Hempstead for its evening roost, 2 Lapwing in the mown field near Hunton Bridge and a third heading south along the canal. Foxes have been making regular appearances and I've scarcely gone a day without seeing them. However, the mammal highlight goes to a stunning Badger which I saw on my walk back home through the farmland being the RSSKL as one trotted across the path directly in front of me (this represents my first ever patch record of one)!
I was kindly given a lift down to the STEagle in Sussex by Jonathan Holliday and although I had barely been home for a day I jumped at the opportunity and was on the road by 2:30am.
Arriving on site, we heard a brief snippet of what sounded like a Woodcock followed later by 2 Nightjars uttering the last of their churring song before dawn broke. The long wait then began and although we didn't expect to see the target bird until 7 or 8am we set ourselves up and waited for it to emerge from it's roost. The hours ticked by with no sign until a brief opening in the clouds warmed our backs and suddenly there it was!!! The SHORT-TOED EAGLE circling right over our heads having sneaked up behind us! We enjoyed good views as it explored the area of heathland in front of us before perching in a tree for a short while. Further views were a little sporadic but after bagging the bird with relatively little hassle, we were happy to head back. A singing Woodlark was also of note as were a couple Siskins and redpoll sp. (most likely Lessers) flying overhead calling.
With the rest of the afternoon off, I ambled back through the KL patch logging a couple of species of interest including 2 Little Owls, 1 Lapwing, 8 Ringlet (my first of the year), 10 Large Skipper, 4 Marbled White, 17 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Peacock, 1 Speckled Wood and 1 Meadow Brown.
Whilst checking the moth traps up at Dan's fields, I was lucky enough to encounter the local Barn Owl as it headed back to it's box. 3 Ravens were also about and the usual 2 Garden Warblers continued singing from the hedgerows. Also life ticked Azure Damselfly!
I spent the rest of the day sat in the train on my way back home to Herts. The short section of the railway track running past Dawlish Warren is definitely one of my favorite parts of the journey as it's the most scenic with good views over the sea. I was totally surprised however, when I saw 2 dolphins leap clean out of the water whilst I was speeding along in the train! Judging on their size, I would opt towards Bottlenose but the views were all too brief to be certain.
My flatmate felt like going on a midnight hike so without hesitation we decided to do exacty that. Getting dropped off at Helford Passage we spent the next couple hours walking the 13km back home between the hours of 12am and 4am. On our way there, I saw my very first live Badger running across the road in front of the car, followed later by a second scuttling away as we came along the coastal footpath. I also heard a total of 5 Tawny Owls (2 juvs, 2 females and 1 male).
Had a great day down on the Lizard in the company of several Marsh Fritillaries (a lifer!). There is honestly no better way to spend a day than watching them at close range crawling all over the vegetation, egg laying and chasing rivals around the boggy fields. Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries added to the highlights as did discovering a Fox Moth resting in the grass. 2 Cuckoos were also about and a Fox made a brief appearance.
Spent the evening mothing at Pennance Point but made a short visit to the neighbouring golf course whilst waiting for the time to pass. Saw a total of 4 Foxes strolling around the greens and caught my very first Elephant Hawkmoth!!
Not a lot to do or see today so resorted to aging Gannets on a rather dull seawatch. 2 Great Northern Divers did make an appearance and a handful of Manx Shearwaters flew through. 3 Sandwich Terns were also in the bay along with 13 Fulmar on the cliffs.
Made a bit of a change from moths and despite trapping earlier in the morning I decided on a coastal visit for some birding. I spent the majority of the day staring at the local population of Fulmars. I'd only brought my bins and camera but the views were brilliant none the less and were doubtlessly more rewarding than had I spent the majority of my time scanning the bay for passage birds. Even so, I still picked out 3 Great Northern Divers offshore.
I was very surprised when, on my way back, a flock of 24+ Sanderling flew past! These are rather scarce on patch, even when there isn't a massive load of disturbance on the beaches and headlands as there was today.
Back patching the coastal stretch again for the afternoon after a morning of mothing.
5 Great Northern Divers (including 2 sum plums) still hanging around in the bay along with a distant diver sp, 2 Sandwich Terns and 34 Manx Shearwaters flowing westwards. c.50 Linnets were also flying about in the fields approaching the point and 10 Fulmar were back on the cliff which is good news.
Seawatching produced the greatest surprise in the form of a pod of c.10 Common Dolphin speeding past Pennance Point at a good pace. Despite them being distant, they still showed well by leaping and clearing the water entirely and were soon followed by what I think may have been a separate pod of c.5 Common Dolphins heading in the same westward direction about five minutes later!! I haven't seen a lot of Common Dolphins from land on patch as Bottlenose tend to be the far more common species so this was a bonus treat.
I admit, you can barely see it but the fluke and peduncle can just be seen entering the water again on this Common Dolphin
Back on the bike and an early start for the Ross's up in Devon. Despite getting the earliest train possible I only arrived in Exeter at 11:40am! This was then followed by a tense cycle ride eventually arriving on site shortly after midday and the bird's departure, sigh...
I got pointed in the direction it had flown so decided to cycle down the perimeter cycle path towards the military training area. Together with one other bloke we invested a considerable amount of effort trying to locate it on the extensive mudflats. It was a near hopeless task but despite the gruelling effort there was no way I was going to give up and dip! A Whimbrel, 1 Mediterranean Gull and the 1st sum Little Gull were partial consolation as was my first Small Copper of the year.
The agonising wait was punctuated by a distant white-winged tern sp., very possibly one of the Roseates that've been kicking about the area. As the tide finally began to turn, I headed back towards the military training area where I hoped it would pass by on its way back to the reserve. I was running out of time fast, as the last train of the day wasn't going to wait for me. Then BOOM!!! There it was, the ROSS'S GULL!! Sat calmly on the mud exactly where I had hoped it would arrive. Almost as soon as I got on it, it flew towards me where it proceeded to wander around on the mud before flying down towards the reserve yet again! I was so exhilarated after bagging it that I stayed a little longer cycling down to the marsh and located it on the mudflat just beyond the seawall shortly before it's traditional to the marsh at high tide.
...causing all the fuss
Barnacle Goose on Bowling Green Marsh, probably not gen
Helped out with a recorders day at Bostraze Moor on West Penwith to help establish the natural diversity present on site. Along with the company of many county recorders and learned Cornish naturalists we invested a full day determining exactly which species exist on site. The weather was dire and took a turn for the worse but we kept going before putting forward our findings and recommended future management ideas for the site owners.
On the bird front, I was rather pleased to see 2 Cuckoos squabbling with each other, a valuable bird of note for the area which in itself warrants the area some attention. I also found a singing Grasshopper Warbler along with Sedge Warbler and the occasional Skylark, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit. A Spotted Flycatcher was also on show, an additional bonus record for the area as none have been noted in the area for several years! My first Heath Spotted-orchid of the year was also in flower!
I headed down to patch almost as soon as I got back home and with the wind picking up I was hoping for a passage Pom. It was only at the back of my mind and on sitting down at Swanpool Point for the seawatch it was quite evident at first that I wasn't going to see much given that only the occasional Gannet was moving. 2 Great Northern Divers (including 1 sum plum), 2 Sandwich Terns and 3 Guillemots were about all I could muster at first. Things did pick up later and I was extremely taken aback when I saw a skua sp. pelting across the sea in the typical powerful rowing action resembling a Pomarine! This was to be a patch and year tick if I could nail it!! I could hardly hold it in when it disappeared behind a boat and even after it had re-emerged I still wasn't fully satisfied with how distant it was for a certain ID. Jizz nonetheless would have categorised it as an almost certainly Pom. A short while later I was treated to almost the same situation, this time a batch of 3 skua sp.s with the typical Pom flight jizz came across the bay even more distant than the last at over 6-7km range (a fair distance beyond the wave hub that sits at 5.8km out to sea). It was even more frustrated to hear that evening that better seawatching headland further west on the West Penwith penisnula had recorded high numbers of Poms in their double figures but barely any Arctic. Very nearly another tick... Ah well.
Helped Dan out in his fields before deciding to walk back home via Argal and College Res. En route, I heard 3 Garden Warblers singing in the immediate area. I'd only just left when I started walking down the public footpath through a cow field. On seeing me, some of the cows got in a right frenzy and started charging towards me flailing their heads, kicking and running towards me! It's safe to say I was a little intimidated but with not enough time to sprint to the closest gate I had no option but to dive into the Cornish hedgerow next to me!! My brain told me it was safer not to go back in the field so I scrambled through the massive mixture of brambles, blackthorn, gorse and even a barbed wire fence only to stumble back into Dan's field (apologies for trespassing). The experience was nothing short of hilarious!! (see picture)
not easy climbing through this I can promise you!
Anyway, back to the birds:
50+ Swallows, half a dozen House Martins, 5+ Great Crested Grebes (one sitting on a nest perhaps brooding eggs), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaffs, 2 Mute Swans and 7+ Mallard. Also accidentally flushed a Fox from the side of the path.
Herring Gulls (c.31 adults, 2 2nd summers, 3 1st summers), 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd sum), 2 Great Black-backed Gulls (both adults), Swallows, 3+ Grey Herons, 1 Great Crested Grebe sitting on a nest, 1 Willow Warbler, singing Chiffchaffs and wet socks.
Penryn River, Gorrangorras:
almost nothing, only 4 Linnets and 4 Mute Swans.
All in all rather dull but I did take plenty of flower pics to trawl through and ID for later!
Hitched a lift with Dan down to Porthcurno where his brother was helping set up an exhibition about the underwater cables connecting the UK to the world, quite an impressive story. A quick nip around the museum whilst they were setting up was quite educational but Dan and I preferred getting outside for some birding so we headed of fairly soon after arriving. The Minack Theatre wasn't too far and since it was a new site for the both of us we decided to head towards Porthgwarra for a brief seawatch bypassing the site en route.
Although the theatre wasn't fully visible from the coastal footpath it was still a decent walk with a brief seawatch every now and then as we made our way along the coast. Dan was borrowing my scope at the time so I couldn't quite ID the diver sp. that flew past but other than that it was a pleasure to see a mass of Manx Shearwaters milling around out to sea. 2 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries on the coastal footpath were a bonus as were our first Common Blue and Large Skipper of the year.
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
still had the camera on an extremely high ISO without knowing